New study explores how cultural mistrust and mentoring affect students’ attitudes toward school

O’Donnell, A. J., Harris, K., Sánchez, B., & Thursby, K. (2022). The roles of cultural mistrust and mentoring in Latinx adolescents’ attitudes toward school. Journal of Research on Adolescence.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Research indicates that current & historical experiences of racism correlate with youth developing cultural mistrust towards educational institutions & authorities (such as teachers). 
  • This study assessed the impact cultural mistrust toward natural mentorship quality & education has on Latinx youths’ academic outcomes. 
  • Cultural mistrust in education negatively correlated with the economic benefits of educational aspirations & education as perceived by Latinx youth.  
  • Cultural mistrust negatively correlated with educational aspirations at low & mean levels of instrumental support.
    • This indicates that cultural mistrust might have a negative impact on Latinx youths’ educational aspirations when they are in a lower quality mentorship. 
  • Latinx adolescents’ culture can have an influential role in their resilience and adaptation to perceived discrimination. 
  • Teachers might be more prepared to establish supportive relationships with their Latinx students if schools a) make a coordinated effort to learn from the mentoring dyads and b) promote their relationship development.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Using the frameworks of Latino Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) and an integrative model of developmental competencies, this study examined the roles of cultural mistrust toward education and natural mentoring relationship quality in the academic outcomes of Latinx adolescents. Participants were 294 Latinx students (52.9% female; mean age 15 years in 9th grade; 21% first-generation, 63% second-generation, and 6% third-generation immigrants) who completed surveys in 9th and 10th grades. The negative effect of cultural mistrust on educational aspirations was greater for students who had poorer quality mentoring relationships. This study addresses gaps in the literature related to cultural mistrust as a coping strategy and discusses the ways in which mentors can serve a protective role.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study found that cultural mistrust in education was negatively associated with perceived economic benefits of education and educational aspirations over time among Latinx adolescents. Furthermore, cultural mistrust was only significantly associated with educational aspirations at mean and low levels of instrumental mentoring support, and the negative association between mistrust and aspirations was greatest at the lowest level of instrumental support. We interpret our findings in light of both LatCrit theory in education (Solorzano & Yosso, 2001) and García Coll et al.’s (1996) integrative model of the developmental competencies of children of color. In response to the pervasiveness of racism within U.S. educational systems and structures (García Coll et al., 1996; Solorzano & Yosso, 2001), Latinx youth may develop cultural mistrust in teachers and educational institutions (Benner & Graham, 2013). Our findings suggest instrumental support from natural mentors may be an important resource for Latinx adolescents, as cultural mistrust has been found to be associated with more negative attitudes toward education (Caldwell & Obasi, 2010; Cooper & Sánchez, 2016; Irving & Hudley, 2008), and educational attainment is a significant source of social mobility for economically disadvantaged youth (Greenstone et al., 2013).

This study makes several important contributions. First, we examined Latinx adolescents, who are underrepresented in the cultural mistrust literature. Second, the validity of our conclusions about the negative role of cultural mistrust and benefit of instrumental support from natural mentors was strengthened because the predictor variables temporally preceded the outcome variables in the analyses, while controlling for earlier levels of the outcomes (Caruana et al., 2015; Shek & Ng, 2016). Finally, our finding that instrumental mentoring support moderated the negative role of cultural mistrust is a unique finding given that relational support from mentors has been examined as a protective resource in the context of discrimination (Griffith et al., 2019; Wittrup et al., 2019).

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